Introduction to Aromatherapy

Introduction to Aromatherapy

The nose really does know
by Jacquie Hale

When I first heard the name aromatherapy, I thought it was just another new age fad. I should know, though, that when I sneer internally, I'd better watch out; something important is about to happen. Five years later, here I am, nose deep in essential oils.

That's what aromatherapy is--smelling essential oils. The oils are picked up by the olfactory bulb (a zillion nerves in your brain) and within 20 seconds, every nerve in your body has delivered the message contained in the essential oil.

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What is this message? Essential oils can support your body while it heals from physical and emotional conditions. The body does the healing, the oils do the supporting.

Essential oils are the life blood of plants. They are what keep plants healthy--free of infection and robust. For centuries, maybe since the beginning of time, plants have been man's medicine. A rich oral history has kept knowledge of their properties and usage alive. Since the earliest hieroglyphs, plant medicine has been recorded. The Egyptians used essential oils in most aspects of their lives, from healing to gifts to the gods. Vats of oil have been discovered in ancient tombs.

Essential oils seem to have many health-promoting uses: Disinfecting, reducing inflammation, increasing circulation, speeding the healing of wounds and burns, relieving headaches, reducing pain, and relieving congestion--to name just a few. They also improve mental function such as calming mind chatter, refreshing the mind, increasing concentration, and promoting inspiration.

Some of the most interesting studies show that combinations of oils have emotion-producing characteristics like increasing joy, promoting forgiveness, amd creating harmony and hope. When you use essential oils, expect to be amazed by their effectiveness and moved by their gentleness and power.

Possibly the most important action of essential oils is their ability to increase the oxygen available to the cells. The oils also increase antibody production and the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters. Each oil has a frequency which is higher than the frequency of the body and therefore, raises the body's frequency.

How the oils work

Essential oils contain many chemicals such as alcohols, terpenes, and aldehydes. This is pretty esoteric stuff; but, it does help to know that the chemical makeup of the oil determines its exact activity in the body. For example, terpenes are antibacterial and work as diuretics and decongestants, whereas aldehydes are anti-infectious and calm the nervous system.

Regardless of the complexity of the chemical makeup, you can begin learning oils simply by memorizing a few correlations. Use lavender for burns and birch for bones. Marjoram is good for muscles and lemongrass for ligaments.

As either a beginner or an expert, you can accomplish great things without understanding why essential oils work. It is just like knowing that a cold compress takes swelling down without understanding anything about the physiology of swelling and inflammation. All you need is to know that a lot of the health-promoting properties of essential oils have been verified and understood by biochemists and other scientists.

Gas chromatographs verify the exact constituents of an oil. Other studies show how oil added to a petri dish kills off the bacterial colonies more effectively than antibiotics. All of this adds to the body of knowledge that can give essential oils validity in the scientific and medical community. The most important verification is your own eyes and ears. Trusting your mind, heart, and intuitive abilities is the most valuable asset you have!

Using essential oils

How you use essential oils depends on what you want to accomplish. The three applications methods described below are most commonly used with essential oils.


Diffusing essential oils is what is called aromatherapy. A diffuser disperses the oil in tiny droplets that remains suspended in the air for several hours. This method reduces bacteria, molds, and fungus in a room and its furnishings as well as releasing the oxygenating particles and negative ions. Don't use dispersing methods that heat the oils because heat changes the oils' properties, reducing or eliminating their effectiveness.

Contrary to common thought, aromatherapy involves more than associating scent with memories. When the droplets of essential oils come in contact with the hairs of the olfactory bulb, the whole nervous system takes part in the action. Endorphins and neurotransmitters are released and antibody production increases, to name a few of the actions.

Most oils work well when diffused. Sometimes diffusion is the most effective method. For example, if someone has a cold, inhaling vapors is the most direct way to support the upper respiratory system.

Direct Application

You can apply the oils directly to the skin and the lipids in the oils will carry it through the skin and into the body. For example, if you have a sore elbow, applying the oil directly to the elbow and surrounding areas would be the most advantageous. A few oils can be very hot when applied neet (directly to the skin). Such oils should be diluted with vegetable oil (never water, it only makes them hotter). Cinnamon oil and combinations that contain cinnamon oil like are often too hot to use straight.

Sometimes the best application is to apply oils in layers, add vegetable oil, and finish with hot wet compresses to drive the oils deeper into the body. Always be aware that the heat can become quite intense when a compress is in place.


The structures and organs of the body are connected by the nervous system to the feet, hands, and ears. The nerve endings in these extremities are called reflexes. The reflex points in the feet, hands and ears are perfect places for treatments. You apply the oil and pressure from your fingers and fingernails to create electrical stimulation to the reflex points. There are wonderful charts that show locations you can use to support the health of organs and structures in the body.

When would you use reflex points? It is effective almost anytime. If you want to support the kidneys, it would be difficult to apply oils directly because the kidneys are protected by the spine and ribs in the back and the organs from the front. So treating the kidney reflexes in the arch of the foot might be the most direct access to those organs.

Other Uses

There are many other ways to use essential oils. They can be added to paint to minimize the impact of the fumes and add the health supporting properties of the oils to the newly painted rooms. You can mix a few drops of oil with water and spray yourself, your animals, furniture, or rooms for disinfecting, adding scent, or repelling insects. Oils can also be used for acupressure and massage, in the bath or shower, in sitz baths and hand or feet soaking.

How to get started

You don't have to do anything or learn anything extraordinary to begin using essential oils! Get a few ">high quality oils (they're rather expensive) and start playing with them. This is serious play! They smell good, they feel good, and they are good. Try a few basics:

Lavender: This oil is first aid in a bottle. Use it for burns, headaches, bruises, insomnia, itching, hair loss, cuts, skin irritation, stress, PMS. It's calming and relaxing and brings balance.

Lemon: In Europe, hospitals use lemon for disinfecting surfaces and instruments instead of harsh chemicals. Lemon oil also increases lymphatic function, purifies water, removes gum and grease, increases white blood cell production, and promotes a sense of well-being.

Peppermint: It improves mental accuracy. Try using it when you are driving and feeling a little mesmerized by the monotony. It also soothes the respiratory system, improves digestion, reduces fever, and regenerates nerves.

Use them in any way that gives you pleasure. Be creative and you'll love the adventure!

Jacquie Hale is a holistic health coach, teacher, and teleclass leader. Visit Jacquie's website at to read more of her articles and newsletters and to check the schedule for her next teleclasses on "PMS and Menopause: Making Sense of the Symptoms." If you would like a sample holistic health coaching session, call Jacquie at 510-548-2585 or email: &copy 1999-2005 Jacquie Hale. Used by permission.


Jana's picture

Very helpful to me!


Absolutes's picture

Check out this introduction article on Absolutes:

Anhata's picture

They can be toxic to the felines.

Excellent article, lots there I didn't know, thank you!

Your Family's General Store, Naturally

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